If you run a virtual business, you probably already know that your employees need access to systems like a virtual phone service to be able to work remotely. However, there are several important things to keep in mind when setting up this kind of phone system.
Business owners often underestimate the amount of planning that’s necessary to integrate a virtual phone unit (VPU) into their existing infrastructure. Many factors need careful consideration before selecting or deploying your VPU onto your network.
Services like Drop Cowboy will offer you some of the best virtual phone systems on the market with all the important elements. But you don’t have to choose blindly. You can check if your prospective provider has what it takes to host your business.
This article will explain in detail all the tips you need to help ensure you have all the knowledge necessary for success in this complex process.
1. Ensure Enough Network Bandwidth To Support A VPU
A digital phone system can place additional strain on your network infrastructure, so it’s important to ensure that the primary connection to the internet has sufficient throughput. If other systems are preventing this line from performing adequately, you’ll need to find some way to unclog the pipe before implementing your virtual business unit.
Some ways of doing this include upgrading routers or switches, consolidating other services onto one router, and moving physical servers onto different subnets.
2. Understand How Your Provider Measures Call Quality For Their Service
Some providers offer services with unlimited minutes while others offer limited talk time, which must be paid for on top of the monthly service fee. Make sure to consider the fine print when reading through your contract to understand how you’ll be billed for out-of-scope call requirements.
3. One Provider May Not Be Suitable For Your Business
As with many business decisions, certain trade-offs must be made to get the best phone service for your company. For example, some providers offer great rates on international calls but don’t include North American numbers in their calling circle while other providers charge a flat rate per month with no add-on costs although they place limits on features like several simultaneous lines or extensions. These factors should all be considered before selecting your phone system.
4. Make Sure Your VPU Can Accept Unsolicited Communication
This capability is essential for allowing customers to get in touch with your business after normal working hours via the web, email, or social media. Providers that offer this functionality will typically charge additional fees for accepting communication outside of standard business hours. Check with your provider to see what options are available in terms of receiving inbound communication through these channels.
5. Check If Customer Service Features Are Customizable
Some providers may not include certain features if they’re not used by all customers. For example, they may not offer call transfers to an extension if doing so requires additional programming, which means it will incur an up-charge.
It’s important to talk with your provider early on about all the features included in their service, what you can customize yourself, and how much it’ll cost for any customizations.
6. If You Want A Second Line, You May Need To Order Multiple Business Lines
Some providers require all outgoing calls to come from a single line (e.g., if they offer many features like call forwarding, call conferencing, or visual voicemail) while others allow outgoing calls on different lines within the account.
However, some of these providers only offer one main number for inbound calls. This means you may need a second line from your phone company if you want your customers to have more contact options when they want to reach you through a phone call.
7. Set Up An Automated Attendant Or Auto Dialer
An automated attendant such as an Auto Dialer allows callers to dial specific extensions or departments by pressing certain key combinations after they’ve reached the main greeting for the organization (e.g., ‘press 1 for sales, press 2 for customer service’). Once the call connects, the platform can either play a pre-recorded message or it’ll send the call to a live attendant.
The exact keys dialed will vary depending on the type of telephone system being used. However, it’s important to be sure that this includes a timeout feature that can provide a brief announcement instructing callers how many times they should press certain key combinations before ending the call.
8. Make Sure Each Job Function Only Uses One Phone Number
If you have a main customer service line and a second line for sales, then assigning both lines to each employee will lead to confusion as there’s no way to tell which line should be used for different types of calls without consulting an outside resource (e.g., knowledge base, internal wiki). Worse, having two numbers for each user can make it difficult to monitor how often different lines are being called; this becomes even more complicated when users can toggle between multiple lines at any time while remaining logged into their account on the VPU.
If possible, try a provider who offers separate phone numbers for each job function to avoid confusion. For example, some providers may allow you to have separate numbers for sales, customer service, and technical support. After, they route these calls to the same floor or workstation within your organization.
9. Evaluate Ease Of Use
Many phone systems are designed with information technology (IT) in mind rather than the employees who’ll need to use them daily. A good rule of thumb is that an average user shouldn’t have to press more than one button before speaking with another user (e.g., they shouldn’t have to dial 9, press 1, then enter an extension number); if they do, it could signify that there are too many options or the interface isn’t intuitive enough. Administrators should expose enough options to be useful, but not so many as to make it difficult for anyone to use the system.
10. Capturing Metadata Is Crucial
When configuring a VPU for individual users, an administrator may need to select certain options such as call forwarding (e.g., ‘do you want the line forwarded if the user doesn’t answer after 10 rings?’), voicemail greeting length, and default call routing rules (e.g., what happens when there’s no answer).
While this information can generally be recorded in a help desk ticket, some administrators may feel more comfortable setting options before assigning the phone number to an individual. However, this introduces two potential problems:
- The original administrator may not remember all of the options that were set; if someone else needs to make changes later on, it’ll take additional time to figure out what was done previously rather than simply making changes based on their current situation or preferences.
- There will be no record of how the system was initially configured; without documentation, future administrators may choose different options for forwarding calls, call routing rules, or voicemail greetings (e.g., they might like shorter greetings better). As a result, users could end up with inconsistent experiences while using the phone system despite having access to essentially the same number.
11. Anticipate The Need For Custom Integration
Typically, a VPU will allow you to add extensions and account codes, take messages for users who are unavailable or forward calls to alternate lines when someone doesn’t answer after a number of rings.
However, some advanced phone systems will be able to integrate with your IT infrastructure to set up automated rules that can handle common requests such as forwarding all messages from a department manager to their assistant or having the system automatically route messages from one salesperson’s extension to another whose line is being forwarded due to voicemail.
This is especially useful if the person receiving the messages needs full access to all of the features available on that particular phone system (e.g., they need both ‘forwarding’ and ‘voicemail’ features) and doesn’t want to go through the process of configuring these options manually.
12. Assess Which Device Types Each User Will Need Access To
As almost any IT administrator knows, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all phone system; some users may prefer working with cordless handsets while others might benefit from using wireless headsets or even softphones on their computer or mobile devices.
It’s possible that certain employees would value having more than one type of device available to them, but only if they genuinely require it. In most cases, it makes sense to standardize on one or two specific device types based on how much additional support and maintenance they’ll require.
13. Observe The Ease Of Performing Each Task With The Device Types You’ve Chosen
For example, if admins choose to standardize on cordless handsets for users, they should determine whether there will be additional time required to pair devices for conference calls (i.e., linking two or more handsets together so that multiple people can speak during a call) or how much training is needed before users are comfortable initiating calls over speakerphone.
Admins may also want to consider whether particular users might require special training related to ergonomics (i.e., sitting upright while using handsets instead of slouching in their chairs) since many handset models lack physical support features like ‘raise to ear’ or adjustable earpiece volume. If any of these issues will require additional support on the part of admins or users, it may be worth considering a different device type.
14. Know How Often Each Task Has To Be Performed
You might find that a user only needs to access voice mail on an as-needed basis (e.g., every couple of days). In this case, it makes better sense for them to use their client email or web browser instead since those tasks don’t typically require being logged into the phone system as a prerequisite. In some cases, admins might want to set up forwarding rules so certain users can have their voicemails automatically forwarded to a shared mailbox that’s accessible to multiple users.
15. Evaluate The Location Where Each Task Will Be Performed
You might find that your employees generally spend their full workday in an office with a desktop computer and at least one landline telephone on their desk. This would make sense for providing these users with phone system access via VoIP or Voice-over-Internet Protocol; it’s possible to purchase fixed IP phones that allow for this type of connectivity, but it could also be expensive if you’re buying new hardware (e.g., at least $50 for each handset assuming they’re not proprietary models) which is something to consider if your business only has about 30 employees.
In this case, it might make more sense to use softphones on the same devices that they already use for their workstations or to provide employees with USB headsets if they don’t have them yet. This type of connectivity is much cheaper since the desktop computer is essentially acting as a virtual phone system. Plus, it also allows admins to access all of the same management features that are available when using any other type of VoIP hardware.
16. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask About The Future Of Your System
As your business grows and changes, you may find that what you need from your phone system is already outdated. It’s important to ask each provider if they offer any sort of upgrades or if they can transfer everything to a new platform if needed. Many providers only guarantee service for three years. This isn’t intended to make things more difficult; rather, it’s meant to make sure you always have the technology you need to stay competitive in your business.
If you want to save money and get the best technology possible for your business, then it could be a great idea to consider a virtual phone system for your business. Although there may be initial costs involved, it’s cheaper in the long run and offers great peace of mind.